Once there was a puny lion. He had small paws & crooked teeth. He had a hard time hunting due to his physical attributes & had to scavenge off hyenas. He was a joke to all the animals
One day after being left only the skin & chewed bones he decided, something had to be done. He needed to turn his life around
He thought long & hard but could not come up with a plan. He wanted territory of his own, then he'd no longer be left with scraps
He realised he would have to challenge a lion for territory. He was weak & small, he did not have the desire to fight. He decided he had to scare a lion away. The only way he could do this was to enlarge his appearance
The lion decided he would cover himself in sap from the commiphora. Once sticky he would roll in grass. The grass would stick to him & he would look bigger
His plan worked & he had tripled in size. He then went to find the nearest male
Far off he spotted him. His pride lazed around him in the sun. Confidently he strode to them
The male he lifted his head & stared as he neared. He did not know what to make of this strange lion on his territory. He broke out in laughter
The puny lion was in shock, this was not the reaction he wanted. In embarrassment he ran off, lions laughing in his wake
As he ran the grass peeled off except for the grass on his neck. This grass flowed in the breeze & attracted the females attention. They had never seen anything so beautiful
The females stopped laughing & began to chase him. This forced him to run faster, he could not lose them
Eventually he collapsed in exhaustion. The females ran straight to him, they loved his long hair. They were in love & wanted to become his pride. The lion could not believe his luck, he had collapsed in an area with no territorial male & he had gained a pride. His plan had worked through defult
As the years passed his females became more in love with his hair & they would do anything for him. They hunted for him, they even drove other males from his land.
The other males took notice, soon they all sported manes to lure females their way. This is how lions came to have manes
I've known Mukabena since she was around two. I say around as with most Himba, they don't know their birthdays. The birthdate is usually the date their mothers get them to the clinic or hospital after giving birth in their village.
Each year I have returned it has been interesting to see Mukabena grow. She was always a quiet girl, and still is but she has taken to helping all over the village. She is always often by her mother Tjimewemo's side. This afternoon was no different.
This day actually had a huge difference, it was the day Mukabena lost her bottom two teeth.
I had not been told that this was happening this day, all I saw was a man in the village I had not seen before. He was a large middle aged man who had kept to himself up until the time he led Mukabena and a few others off into the bush.
While the group were absent I asked one of the village men who he was. The doctor was all I got in reply.
As most days do in the village, it dragged on. The afternoon hours spun around & soon the women were off to fetch the nights water. As usual I fell in line.
As I followed in their dusty footsteps I saw Tjimewemo, Mukabena & the man contact Ng in the opposite direction. The women in front of me exchanged pleasantries as they carried on their way. It was just another day.
As Tjimewemo drew level with me she spoke to Mukabena who's face looked a little swollen but could not suppress a smile. The smile looked painful & seconds later I knew why as two deep holes appeared in her gums. She had just had her teeth knocked out.
As painful as this would have been, Mukabena was proud. She was happy she was carrying on this Himba tradition and I asked if I could take her picture.
I did not want to intrude on her wounds however proud she was, so I asked for a simple portrait. When I look at this portrait now it's not just an image of a strong beautiful young girl, to me it is just another experience I have had with the Himba. I was not present at the time & really did not want to be when her 2 teeth were knocked out with specifically carved rocks. I was there to learn a little more of their culture & see Mukabena on one of the most important days of her young life.
The water hole was bare. The mid winter sun bore down, anywhere else in the world people would be happy to sit & bake in this heat. Today was not the right place or time. We had come for the animals
I quickly returned to my room. My friend who sat opposite me knew it would be another long hot afternoon. I was here to a hat, sun cream & water then return for the vigil. I hoped the afternoon would give us something to talk about over a few evening beers.
When everything had been collected I grabbed my kit & started the walk over the white rocks around the waterhole. Halfway there I decided I should get a few extra cards just in case
I had just pulled the door shut when I heard in a low whisper, " the Elephants are coming". I rushed to see
Far away 3 males started their run in. Their large heads swung from side to side as their feet kicked up dust
The afternoon light was just starting to dip but it was still nowhere near where I liked it to be for a parade as special as this.
As the 3 moved forward a family appeared. Far on the scrub line they milled around for 20 minutes before following the others before. Those big boys had wasted no time & were now plastered with mud
As the family neared there was a sense of hesitation, maybe they sensed some harm
The women stopped & shuffled from foot to foot 200 meters from the water. That moment another bull appeared
This bull followed by a young male, who was followed by another. The bush seemed to be manufacturing Elephants as it pleased
As I began to study the Elephants I realised the family was waiting for a leader to show them the way. He strode forward to complete the task
As the others fell in line shuffling forward I saw more Elephants appear, they too came forward.
More & more Elephants came until I lost count at 60, capturing the moment took priority. I was now great full I'd returned for more cards
The travelling line of else's continued, the continual line never stopped until the sun finally sank giving me the perfect way to round out the day.
If you would like to join me in Namibia in 2018, please see www.benmcraephotography.com for more details on my Namibian Photographic Experience.
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